Doctors Say Healthy People Come From Good Urban Design

A new report written by a handful of doctors titled Improving Health Care by Design concludes that in order to have a healthy populace we need cities designed for health. There is nothing startling in the report but it does provide one more reference and tool for people to use inspire positive change in their own communities.

The results: if we want healthy people, we need to build healthy communities. This means, the doctors suggest, that our communities need to made more conducive to walking, cycling, and public transit. The report concludes with calls for “major changes” in community design across the GTHA.

These are not perhaps particularly novel observations, few would argue that more opportunities for physical activity leads to better overall health. But the report, written as it was by doctors, adds leverage to these ideas by attempting to quantify more specifically, the health effects of good community planning.

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A Scientific Approach to Better Urban Design

Urban design is not an easy activity because of the multitude of variables that impact the overall urban experience. There are buildings, traffic (foot and vehicular), landmarks, natural occurrences like rivers, and abstracted economic forces. Space Syntax is a company has set out to make better urban design by using science to calculate the probability of positive spaces being built.

Stonor says his ultimate goal is for the science to catch on with other design firms and consultancies. In a way, he wants to put himself out of business. He says he wants architects and planners to learn to use space syntax themselves, and not rely so much on his consultancy.

Academically, space syntax has caught on in many other schools and countries. However, the Bartlett at University College of London – where Hillier and Hanson developed the science – is still its primary research center. The academic and business sides work closely, a relationship that Stonor says is vital. The academics feed him new ideas, and his company field-tests their research. In addition, every tool and most of the studies produced by both the business and academic sides of Space Syntax are open access and available online.

Read more at Wired’s Map Lab.

Here’s an example of one their reports:

Space Syntax_Informal Settlements Brochure

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Ideas to Get Consumers to Buy Sustainable Products

Every year more sustainably produced products hit store shelves yet consumer uptake on these products isn’t as strong as it should be. Sure, there are increasing sales overall but the amount of people who are buying environmentally-concious products isn’t increasing at a fast enough rate.Over at Fast CoExist a writer proposes six ways to convince consumers to buy greener products.

5: SHOW, DON’T TELL

It’s unreasonable to assume that consumers will translate sustainable attributes into benefits that matter to them. More marketers need to visibly demonstrate how green products make a real difference to people’s lives. For instance, at Plum Organics, the packaging does the talking. Not only does it contain some of the healthiest baby food available, but its stand-up pouch, secure spout and rounded edges give parents a safer and more convenient “self-serve” option, while kids get more control over their eating experience. Benefits like these drive repeat business. You can’t say that about a glass jar.

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Better Urban Design Can Increase Happiness and Sexiness

Obesity is a growing problem in North America and it looks like this health issue will continue to grow. There are many contributing factors to what’s referred to as an obesity epidemic, and some designers think that we can curb at least one contributing factor: poor urban planning. Not coincidentally, places with a higher proportion of obesity have low density planning.

What if we changed the low density planning to something more walkable and liveable?

Walking and biking, on the other hand, not only make us fit, but they also both improve mental health. Oxytocin—the same chemical released during sex and breastfeeding, that reduces stress and increases trust and empathy—is released during outdoor exercise. (Indoor exercise, interestingly, doesn’t have the same effect).

There are many things that need to change in urban planning and design, but one of the most basic is this: we need to define success differently. Right now, engineers make many decisions based on something called “level of service”—basically, how long cars are delayed at certain points. Our goals should be based on people, not cars. Right now, a busy commercial street would be judged a transportation failure even though it’s a social and economic success. We need to change the way we measure, so designers can make the right decisions.

Read more at Good.is to find out where the sexiness comes in.

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Building Better Homes for Refugees

Ikea’s charitable arm has used the expertise of the cheap furniture manufacturer to design a better housing unit for refugees with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Hopefully these designs will help people around the world who are living in poor conditions.

The Refugee Housing Unit started working on a project to develop emergency shelters in 2008. Johan Karlsson, Project Manager at the Refugee Housing Unit, recalls: “The Indian Ocean tsunami was still a fresh memory, and ‘Building back better’ was the motto among our humanitarian partners—meaning that humanitarian aid should not only contribute to saving lives, but also to creating sustainable communities after disasters.”

The Refugee Housing Unit realised that, with their design and manufacturing expertise, they had vital skills to contribute to the process. “By adding our and our partners’ knowledge in product design and production, we were certain that we could help humanitarian agencies create a shelter which would represent better value for money and at the same time significantly improve the lives of refugees and displaced people, as well helping communities be more resilient to disasters.”

Read more here.
Thanks to Shea!

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